We know today that the Jomon people lived a tribal village lifestyle during the Jomon period (10,000 – 300BC) with many festivals that had shamanic rituals with dancing and singing.
The sounds of the percussion instrument — the clay drum are thought to have dominated the music and ceremonial scene of the Jomon people. It is thought that the drum power was associated with the gods and that drum beating was used to signal the start of the village hunt or the approach of a storm. The rumbling sounds of the drum persists till today in the taiko drum which remains a very important traditional instrument of the Japanese culture.
Watch a riveting 1995 performance of Toshi Tsuchitori’s at the Saitama Art Center “Jōmonko; Pottery Drums of Jōmon Period（B.C.3000－B.C. 2500）” that recreated the sounds of the Jomon drum on replica Jomon clay drums here:
Besides the drum, the Jomon people also had many kinds of whistles made from deer antler, stone or clay, as well as wooden primitive fiddle-like or koto-like instruments that could be strummed.
A range of sounds can be produced using the above pictured clay bird-whistle depending on the combination of holes covered. When the two clay plates identical to the one in the photo are affixed by pegs, the blowing upon the whistle produces the sound that mimicks the cry of the Common Pheasant. It is thought that the whistle was used to help in attracting and hunting down the bird.
Below are more excavated finds and replica musical instruments of the Jomon people and period.
For more on the koto-like (hera- or nogata-shaped instrument), see this page.
Tonal sounds can be produced by covering the holes on the side. See stone whistles below.
Jomon-jin no Douki (Vol. 4 Jomon-jin no kurashii) Rekishitaiken
Further information and resources:
A lecture on “Jomon music” (substitled in English) by Toshi Tsuchitori
Watch another performance of Toshi Tsuchitori’s recreating music on other Jomon instruments such as the ocarina here.
How to make an ocarina (listen to it played)